Yet Harnett — who rose to stardom around the turn of the century with films like Black Hawk Down and Pearl Harbor but has not been seen in too many major projects over the past dozen years save for Showtime’s Penny Dreadful — says it was never a calculated move to dial back his career.
"I didn't really take any major hiatuses that were planned, I just had kids," Hartnett tells Yahoo Entertainment in a new interview (watch above). Hartnett did move back to his home state of Minnesota at the height of his success and has since relocated to London where he lives with his partner, Tasmin Egerton, and their three children. "I started doing smaller films, [since] the films didn't take me away from the kids very often."
With the Guy Ritchie-directed, Jason Statham-starring crime thriller Wrath of Man hitting theaters this weekend, Hartnett has what’s arguably his highest profile film release since 2007’s 30 Days of Night. He costars as Sweat Boy Dave, a cash truck security guard who gets caught up in Statham’s revenge plot.
Perhaps fittingly, it’s a role that didn’t even exist when the film went into production. Hartnett and Ritchie (Snatch, Aladdin) tell slightly varied versions of the same story. Ritchie says Hartnett happened to drop by on the first day of shooting and expressed interest in joining the cast. Hartnett says Ritchie called him. Either way, both men wanted to work with one another.
"[Guy] said 'There’s nothing in the script, but we'll make it up as we go,’” Hartnett recalls. "I said, 'That sounds perfect because I always like a challenge and I always like to do something that's unexpected, and I always like to do something that's going to be terrifying to me.' And what's more terrifying than not having a part, and not being the lead? Are they even going to use me? I don't know. But I love Guy and was like, 'Let’s see what happens.'"
"That role we made up because we were Josh Hartnett fans," Ritchie says. "So as the days went on he said, 'Listen, I’ll do anything. So we took him on and each day, he was so charismatic that each day his part seemed to grow."
Hartnett's credits seem to be growing again, too. He can currently be seen in Raoul Peck’s buzzy HBO documentary miniseries Exterminate All the Brutes, he's already completed another (still untitled) film with Ritchie and Statham, and will soon shoot the four-part series The Fear Index with the producers of The Crown. He's also become a screenwriter and started a production company.
"I'm acting a lot right now. I have taken time off to start writing scripts. I've written quite a few and had a couple sold but nothing actually got made and that was frustrating," he says.
"But right now I’m getting a lot of good offers, working with a lot of cool people… There’s a lot of good stuff coming so I can't turn down great roles. So my relationship [with acting] is just if there are interesting roles that are going to be challenging and get out there and people are going to see them, then I’m all for it."
Wrath of Man is now playing.
— Video produced by Jen Kucsak and edited by Schuyler Stone
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